A whiff of Christmas 

It’s a Saturday in December. People crowd the streets and the Christmas market. Everybody seems happy to stroll among the huts and booths where a thousand superfluous things are sold. I recently listened to a German comedian on YouTube, mocking the Germans for their annual haul of overpriced stuff on Christmas markets. The so called Stehrümchen. Stuff that nobody needs, let alone buys except in those four weeks before Christmas when suddenly even Filz looks snug and homely. Stehrümchen. Only original in a deep Rhenish dialect. 😃
But I am not here for Stehrümchen. I am here, because I need one more xmas present. Quite straight forward, I know what I’m looking for and I want to get it over with. My couch and netflix are calling loudly and seductively.

The girl at the booth selling scarfs and fine cloth from middle Eastern countries is helpful yet helpless with my request for a men’s scarf that is warm in winter yet equally suitable for summer, neither too long nor square, rather light-coloured with a tinge of blue or maybe orange. No shiny applications or obtrusive patterns, please. After a while she asks the friendly owner of the shop for help and he takes over.

I like him, a middle-aged Pakistani with an irrefutable taste for bargaining.

We discuss colours and patterns. He praises the items he pulls out from under the counter. Not the ordinary scarves and cloth on display, but finer fabrics, less mainstream. We get along and enjoy our conversation. He senses a good deal, I enjoy his calm friendliness.

Once we get talking about the prices, I back off from most items, as fine as they are. I tell him what I’m willing to pay maximum and now the real bargaining begins. After a good deal of arguing, I pay a good deal more than I wanted to for a scarf that admittedly IS very nice.

The guy hands over the bag and asks me whether I would like a scarf for myself, as well.

I look at the shiny and colourful things from distant countries that smell of Thousand and one Nights and sigh. There’s a glass green scarf with modest ornaments in flowery colours similar to the one my dad gave me three years ago for Christmas. And a hundred more oriental shades in silk and merino and finely woven cotton …

I tell him that I bought this one for my dad who needs it more than I do…

… He continues showing me marvellous patterns and colours …

… But I’m glad I can make him happy and …

How about this one young lady, this dark blue looks like the deep ocean next to your brown hair

… And that’s more important this year than another decoration for myself.

He pauses.

You made me very happy., he says. Thank you. 

We smile at each other for a while.

I thank him for our warm encounter and turn around.

Merry Christmas!, he says.

I stop, turn around once more and wave. Yes, there was a whiff of Christmas in the air.

ہربانی. Thank you.


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